Dry needling treatments

The practice of dry needling is used to provide relief from pain. It can be very beneficial for someone with chronic pain, particularly pain around a joint or major muscle group.

Dry needling is a type of acupuncture that is often used interchangeably with traditional acupuncture. While traditional acupuncture typically involves inserting needles and leaving them in place for a period of time, dry needling incorporates the practice of moving needles in and out of muscle and soft tissue.

Our Physiotherapists may suggest trialling dry needling treatments in order to manage the certain physical conditions, such as –

  • chronic neck pain
  • back pain
  • hip pain
  • elbow pain
  • shoulder pain

Dry needling may also be used to treat acute pain, for example, when someone has woken up in the morning with a stiff and sore neck.

How does dry needling relieve pain?

Dry needling is based on the simple concept that pain in the body can be modulated by introducing a different stimulus. This is often called the Pain Gate Mechanism. For example, if someone has back pain, introducing a needle (sometimes to another area of the body) can decrease how the body is interpreting and feeling that original pain.

There are also different mechanisms which prompt the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body. Introducing an acute stimulation can drive the body to release its own levels of pain relief chemicals.

Where are the needles applied?

The needlings are applied into myofascial trigger points.

A myofascial trigger point refers to a tight nodule or band in a muscle. It occurs when the muscle fibres are in a constricted position rather than a relaxed position. It is commonly referred to as a ‘knot’, and it can cause pain.

Trigger points are very common and are often found in people who are experiencing pain in an area or following a known injury. They can affect the body in several different ways, including:

  • decreased skin sensation
  • increased referred pain around the trigger point
  • pins and needles in associated areas
  • decreased functional movement, including restricted range of motion or limited strength in that area of the body.

How many dry needling treatment sessions are required?

Typically, only several sessions of dry needling are required.

This is because its purpose is to decrease pain in order to enable someone to re-engage with movements such as strength exercises. A handful of sessions is usually enough for someone to have their pain decreased sufficiently to move on to more functional interventions.

What does dry needling treatment actually feel like? Are there any side effects?

Most people will find that dry needling or acupuncture feels like an initial sharp sting or sensation to the skin, which typically develops into a feeling of gentle pressure. When a trigger point is dry needled it can also cause a dull ache in another area; this is known as referred pain.

A common side effect of dry needling is a small amount of bleeding around the needle site as well as light tenderness and bruising. Other risks exist when dry needling around the lungs or major blood vessels, and this is something that all well-qualified dry needling practitioners will be aware of and manage accordingly.

What type of needles are used? 

Dry needling uses specialised acupuncture needles. These needles vary in length and thickness.

A trained clinician such as a Physiotherapist will decide on the length and thickness of the needles, and this decision will be based upon which area of the body is being treated and what they are looking to achieve.

For example, a large muscle or a muscle that is deeper in the body will require a longer needle, while vigorous needling of firmer muscles may require a higher gauge (thicker) needle to be effective.

When should dry needling be avoided?

As is the case with any treatment, dry needling or acupuncture may not be suitable for some people.

At Community Therapy our experienced Physiotherapists will draw on their specialist knowledge of precautions or contraindications before determining whether dry needling is a suitable treatment plan for someone.

How do Physiotherapists learn dry needling?

Some Physiotherapists will complete acupuncture and dry needling training within their undergraduate Physiotherapy degree, while others will undertake additional training as a postgraduate course.

Contact Us

If you are interested in learning more about dry needling and wish to talk to us please head to our contact page.